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Cornell University Library 
PT 8882.P111 

On the heights 

3 1924 026 308 480 

Cornell University 

The original of this book is in 
the Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
the United States on the use of the text. 

On the Heights 

( Pa a Vidde rn e ) 

Henrik Ibsen 

English Version in the form of the original 
William Norman Guthrie 

On the Heights 

(Pa a Vidderne) 

Edition limited to two hundred and fifty copies, 
printed on imported English paper and Italian hand- 
made cover, type set by hand and redistributed, at the 
University Press of Sewanee, Tennessee. 

This is copy No, 

On the Heights 

(Pa a Vidderne) 

A Tragedy in Lyrical Ballads 

Henrik Ibsen 

English Version in the form of the original 

William Norman Guthrie 

Printed for the 

University Extension Department of 

The University of the South 

Sevranee, Tennessee 




Copyright 1 910 


William Norman Guthrie 

What is life ? But war waged with the trolls 
That haunt us in heart and brain; 

And the poet's work ? Doomsday of Souls, — 
And himself 'tis Himself must arraign. 

— Ibsen. 

•^ 4^ *& <A» 4^ 4^ jf^ 4^ 4^ 4^ iJ^ «& ^ 

On the Heights 

(Paa Vidderne) 

^^^^'^^'^^^ ^"^ ^°^^ °^ * worid-lan- 
^^^* ^* ^^ guage — one at least which we 
^'V^ 'fd\ I ^ can victoriously impose on our 
'^htt^ \jltA» ^ polyglot customers — must with 
Ai^k \iAAi^ ^J5* resignation endure the punish- 
•y ^^^'r^^^ ment that fits our crime : we 
i|^9l^'S|l|&^|&sl are poor linguists. When we 
leave out of reckoning those 
who learn the set chatter for business convenience 
and the emergencies of travel from imported parrots 
or pedagogic phonographs, — when we, lords of a 
world-language, acquire a foreign speech it is de haut 
en bas, for intellectual discipline as one might employ 
dumb-bells ; and for all our scholarly care, the foreign 
speech is subjugated in effigy: — dumb signs on the 
printed page — not melody of tone and rhythmic 
dance, instinct with the mind and heart of kindred 
humanity reared in other climes ! Studying then for 
so-called "mental discipline" — or worse yet to ob- 


tain a philological exhibit under glass — the poetry of 
the foreigner is only too apt to remain a hieroglyphic 
mystery, or an erudite affectation with which to crush 
the Philistine and rout the infidel scrutinizer of our 
academic superiority! 

And nevertheless the translator's art is neglected 
among us — not to say in positive ill repute. Any 
one (so our publishers attest by deeds if not words) 
is quite good — or rather bad enough to transliterate. 
It is merely a problem of transportation, and should 
be solved by electricity or telepathy with the mini- 
mum cost : fifty dollars per novel ; twenty-five dollars 
per trilogy ; thirty cents per lyric or less, allowing 
somewhat for tariff on brains. So the songs, odes, 
ballads — of Goethe, Schiller, Heine, Hugo, Leopardi 
— be not unto us "a joy forever;" symbols rather of 
European fames distin6lly incomprehensible ; and as 
we might honor the mummy of Rameses, or inspect 
a brass idol in a Joss-house, so we stare at these 
"foreign glories" and chuckle superiorly as we think 
of the verse that sells ! 

But to be serious, Henrik Ibsen, among great 
moderns, has suffered more, perhaps, in our apprecia- 
tion, than any except Hugo, from the suppression of 
his lyric work. Hugo however has had the eloquent 


championship of Swinburne. So that most of us 
haughty scorners of French (for young ladies' schools 
only) must take on faith his verve and 'verbal magic. 
Ibsen, on the other hand, so touched the twin nerves 
of "current events" and " moral scandal " that few for 
a generation among his 'English and American stu- 
dents has had leisure to take adequate cognizance of 
his claims as a singer. Yet putting together versions 
by Edmund Gosse, P. H. Wicksteed, William Archer, 
C. H. Hereford, H. H. Boyesen, William Morton 
Payne, and Dr. P. W. Shedd, with sundry unpublished 
translations, and expunging duplicates, we have on our 
editorial table no less than fifty-two lyrics in passable 
English prose or verse, which would, were they 
printed in one volume (with proper editorial com- 
ment and detail revision now and then for accuracy or 
elegance), constitute a definite challenge to the awarder 
of relative poetic laurels and seats in the hall of fame. 
About one half of Ibsen's published non-dramatic 
verse ; — yet enough, however mistreated, and through 
a glass darkly disfigured to sight — enough for any 
competent judge of poetry to rank Ibsen among 
Europe's foremost artists in verse. 

Let us add, by the way, that Dr. P. W. Shedd's 
Oceanides contains no less than thirty-five translations 

4 lo^ 

of Ibsen varying in merit ; among them the two most 
famous : Paa Vidderne (On the Upland, alias In the 
Highlands) and Terje Vigen, the ballad of the Nor- 
wegian Sailor — an Ancient Mariner, sans mediaeval 
magic. It should also be noted that the same vol- 
ume includes a wide lyric selection from Danish, 
Swedish, Dutch, German, French and Italian poets. 
Were the evident facility of Dr. Shedd disciplined, 
that is, were his spontaneous felicities sustained by 
such infinite pains as proceed from a fastidious sense 
of distinftion creatively exercised, what a precious 
contribution might we not expe6t from this translator ! 
But we fear he cannot, in this age of bustle and hustle, 
be allowed the requisite studious leisure, and the aus- 
tere yet sympathetic criticism of fellow-craftsmen 
(neither carpers who rail because they can't or won't 
create, nor Chinese mechanical head-bobbers approv- 
ing the devil himself from lack of brains or pains) ; 
and alas, with leisure and true criticism alone could 
Dr. P. W. Shedd become for the American non-poly- 
glot lover of poetry such a benefactor as once upon a 
time we acknowledged in Longfellow, our first cos- 
mopolitanizer of literary taste. 

The following version of Paa Vidderne was sub- 
mitted to Professor Julius G. Olson of the University 

I? II 1^ 

of Wisconsin, who was kind enough to give it a care- 
ful reading and commend it as close in spirit to the 
original while free from the bondage of the letter. 
As it may serve Ibsen students to compare with Dr. 
Shedd's (in ignorance of which it was undertaken) let 
it here be printed, that it may challenge others to 
do likewise (nay, God willing, better) so that such 
friendly rivalry be some day rewarded with a perfect 
rendering of this masterpiece, which is indispensable 
to a right valuation of Loves' Comedy, Brand and Peer 
Gynt, not to mention The Master Builder and When 
We Dead Awake. 

'•^ 4!^ 4^ 4^ '4V '^ "^ ''^ 4^ '4!^ "^ "^ '4^ 

Paa Vidderne 

Part I. 

The knapsack slung behind my back, 

My rifle in my hand, 
The fire extinguished, barred the shack 

With bolt and willow band ; 
Then quick, where little mother dwells 

(We 'bide as neighbors nigh) 
Her hands clasp mine in fond farewells : 
"When I'll return from the sheer fells? 

God knows ! Till then — goodbye ! " 

The village trail in narrow twists 

Ascends the wooded height ; 
The fiord and valley, in moonshine mists 

Below me, fade from sight; 
Our neighbor's home — it hugs the steep 

Moon-silvered pasturage : 
What glints from elder hedge out-peep ? 
Rustle of linen or whispers in sleep 

Of its twinkling foliage ? 

<| 14^ 

There stood my love, in linen clad, 

These ears, my name did greet. 
As dewy fresh was she and glad 

As mountain grasses sweet. 
Her eyes gleamed roguish to deceive, 

Yet wooing frolicsome ; 
Laughing I stooped, nor asked her leave. 
Till standing nigh, I heard her heave 

A sigh, and her eyes swum. 

I wound my arm around her waist ; 
She paled by turns and blushed, 
" My wife art thou," quoth I. Embraced, 

Her bosom, passion hushed, 
Beat wildly. " Thou art mine," I said, 
" In body yea and soul." 
She shyly drooped her winsome head. 
Her brooch — it trembled as in dread, 
Likewise her linen stole. 

She begged so sweetly, I released 

My lass. Again we laughed 
And jested ; but my thirst increased, 

For all the witchery quaffed. 
I looked imploring in her eyes. 

She ceased all jesting now. 
But in the woods our vows and sighs 
Of trolls, meseemed, and elfin spies 

Were mocked with leer and mow. 

4 ^5 4> 

Upward we clomb the narrow trail 

To forest dark. — The fiord 
And valley fade in moonshine pale 

And mists. On the steep sward 
We sat together, truly wed, 

By the dizzy precipice. 
And sky with stars gleamed overhead 
A South wind filled with mystic dread 

Th' unutterable bliss. 

I wound my arm about her waist, 

No longer timid she. 
My true wife boldly I embraced, 

Tho' whiles the wicked glee 
Of troll and elf seemed fain to mock 

Our love. I reck not them. 
In tittering tree and lowering rock. 
Her in my eager arms I lock 

And elfin wiles contemn. 

I lay on a jagged rock to gaze. 

The peaks the sun bestrode, 
Slumbered the depths in shrouds of haze 

While the icy summits glowed. 
A red hut, yonder, waxes clear — 

My mother's, where she bore 
Labor and hardship many a year ; 
Where erst I tasted boyish cheer: 

Shall such be mine no more ? 

4 i6 |» 

She's up betimes, for the blue reek 

Trails from the roof. To white 
She spreads in our croft-clearing bleak 

Fresh linen. God requite 
Mother, and bless thy thrifty stir. 

Among the crags aloft 
I'll capture thee a reindeer fur. 
And, for my lonesome bride ? — for her 

Twain more, as warm and soft. 

Where's She ? Ah, She doth surely 'bide 

In dreams of grace and weal. 
What last befell, let darkness hide 

And sleep alone reveal. 
Banish from waking hours no less 

All hint of shame or smirch. 
Soon he who won thee shall possess. 
Weave linen, sew thy wedding dress — 

Not far stands yonder church ! 

Tho' hard, from them we love, to part — 

The tender yearning mood 
With strength endues the lover's heart. 

And easeful solitude. 
One night hath healed me. Born anew, 

The evil mood dispelled. 
The life sin shares with sickly rue, 
That wretched half-life men pursue — 

'Tis here abjured and quelled. 

« '7^ 


For ills that mighty in darkness loom, 

For trolls that fleer and nod, 
This mom my spirit yields no room, 

So close to self and God ! 
One sweeping glance o'er fiord and vale, 

Forested crag and scaur! 
Then forth upon the reindeer's trail ! 
Bride, Mother — I for you will scale 

Yon beckoning heights afar. 

Lo, th' highlands flare, a glowing wall 

To a dying world on fire. 
But o'er the lowlands spreads the pall 

Fog — to wayfarers dire. 
Footsore, I wist not what I would, 

Dispirited ; yet where 
Weary on the rockledge I stood 
Bloomed blood-red heather of Maidenhood 

That shook in the evening air. 


I plucked, and on my head I donned 

A spray thereof, for crest ; 
Nearby, thick brush spread branch and frond - 

Shelter for welcome rest : 
But the wild night, wildering my brain, 

Meseems in the lone churchyard. 
The dead uprise, my soul arraign 
And doom, — then pass by in disdain 

The guilty wretch ill-starred. 


Oh, were I near thee, this ill hour,— 

Pure bloom I culled, and sweet, — 
Thy faithful watchdog I should cower 

Repentant at thy feet. 
Nay, in the well-spring of thine eyes 

I'd wash my guilty soul, 
And them that maddened me chastise 
By rock and tree, foul elfin spies, — 

Yea, slay the jeering troll ! 

Victorious then I'd leap and cry 
To God in instant prayer : 
" Oh bless with sunshine far and nigh 
Her path made smooth and fair." 
Ha, what ? Was not my calling war ? 

Bom fighter, bold and stout ? 
Far better boon I'll beg him for: 
" Kind God, make steep her path and sore. 
With foes for me to rout." 

Let rain-swoU'n mountain torrents roar 

Athwart her slippery path ; 
Grant landslip and moraine whereo'er 

No maid safe footing hath ; 
Then I'll upbear her with strong arm. 

How mad soe'er the flood ; 
My breast her pillow, who'll alarm. 
Who threaten her with shame or harm I 

He rueth it in blood. 

Part 2. 

Far he came from southlands hither. 

Mark his high and pallid forehead, 
Round him northlights gleam and wither 

Lurid to a blood-sheen horrid. 

Sobs sardonic choke his laughter ; 

Dumb his lips — yet vaguely mutter, 
Whence there dawns no meaning after 

More than wind-smit rocks can utter. 

Cold his eyes, their deeps unsounded 
Glacier-tarns, whose springs are hidden. 

Icy-walled and crag surrounded, 
Joy forbidding and forbidden. 

Heavy thoughts like circling eagles, 
Swooping o'er their surface, mirror ; 

E'er their whirling flight inveigles 
Flee — nor bide the glassy terror. 

He with hounds and I with rifle 
Met by chance in frozen highlands; 

Comrades — stubborn doubts I stifle, 
Pledge him fellowship in silence. 

Why, the peril reconnoitered. 
Barred I not the spirit's gateway ? 

Fearing, fled not ? Hating, loitered ? 
He my will-power vanquished straightway. 



" Yearn at dusk for hearth and mother ? 
Want the hovel's smoke to grope in? 
Sleep is sweeter in pelts and smother 
Than — moss-bedded in the open ? 

Moth'r on her hard bed — with Tabby — 
Sat and span and sang old stories, 

Till things common, dull, and shabby 
Changed to fancies and dream glories. 

"Fancies? dreams? more dreams? romances? 
Scanning heaven thro' smoky skylight ? 
Drain life's beaker and take thy chances. 
Act, man ! Fie on dreams in twilight ! " 

Stalk the reindeer where the colder 
Upland wind and weather dare thee. 

What? plough gravel and harrow boulder 
Dead already, that death may spare thee? 

Ah, below the bells are ringing. 
Music — tender hopes doth warrant. 

Sweeter ringing, better singing 
Hark, in waterfall and torrent ! 

She and mother with close-wrapped prayer-book 
Churchward fare for song and service. 

Never read'st God's open-air book ? 
Braver deeds to thrill and nerve us? " 

Hear the organ sweetly thunder ! 

Candles round the altar glimmer. 
Storms inspire with sterner wonder, 

Sparkling snows give holier shimmer. 

«2I ^ 

Show the way in wind and weather, 

Lead me on. I gladly follow. 
Fare they twain to church together — 

Twain the storm and stress will hallow ! 


Autumn. Down the clanging cattle 
Drift from slope and mountain table. 

Freedom, with the wild winds to battle. 
Bartered for full byre and stable. 

Winter soon spreads snow-smooth cover 
Over crag, scaur, gorge, ice-hollow — 

Ere the snow-flakes whirl and hover, 
I the homeward trail will follow. 

Home? Eh? What? I once a home had ? 

Taught forgetting by this stranger. 
Mine the heedless heart of nomad 

Cold with loneliness and danger. 

Life of drudg'ry — what will't win you? 

Dead who doth his soul defile in't ! 
Manly daring, stalwart sinew, — 

Larger life bide in the highland. 

Shelter in the saeter cabin, 

Hole for fire and stool for brooding, 
Self with self — a tryst to blab in, 

Snowshoes — ^ne'er a lout intruding! 

Since he made me night's initiate, 

Antics of the elfia marksmen 
Never dared to cross my wish yet : 

Lo, the Day's man flouts the Dark's men I 

<| 22 ^ 

Winter life in ice-choked mountains 
Steels effeminate will and fancy. 

Here no trills of birds or fountains 
Work their maudlin necromancy. 

When I've donned my whole ice armor, 
Twain I'll fetch from lowlands gaily, 

Teach them scorn of trudging farmer, 
Feasting in high dance-halls daily. 

Both will share my new got learning 
Till they mock at life beneath us, 

Freer air and far discerning 
Snowfield and crevasse bequeath us. 


Weeks, long weeks ! Two wills continue 
Lonely warfare each with other. 

Peace and quiet, ere I win you. 
Must I fetch me bride and mother? 

Down then hie ! But one day's visit 
Loose my breast from this oppression. 

They once here, whose kingdom is it? 
Theirs and mine and Spring's possession. 

Up, begone. What, storms already 
Break? Rock-ledges and crevasses 

Cloaked in sleet? Snow-drift and eddy ? 
Closed (too late !) all mountain passes. 

<? 23 > 

Part 3. 


The weeks sped onward. Alo le I abode 

Where the homesick fever ran riot. 
The torrent was hushed by his icicle load, 
The full moon over the glacier rode, 

Stars glistered in awful quiet. 

But my spirit grown calmer could brook not to lurk 

In the shack lest cold overcome it. 
When faded day's glare, with rifle and dirk 
Where the reindeer pasture was sportsman's work 

By the precipice, up the sheer summit. 

In the misty abyss sleep field and croft. 

What strains on my ear come stealing? 
Intently I listen. How silvery soft ! 
My heart, O it leapeth. I've heard them so oft: 

'Tis the blessed sweet bells that are pealing I 

They gleefully ring in the holy night, 
Those blessSd old bells ; and that twinkling. 

Is it Mother's? It must be ! Her hut is alight. 

And that other ? Our neighbor's ! What tender affright ? 
What dear mysterious inkling ? 

The pitiful world of my boyhood — my home — 

It became then a vision of faery. 
What, alone in the waste and the haunted gloom 
I venture to straddle the glacier comb. 

But the lowlands to reach — I despair, £h ? 

4 24^ 

Then meseemed that I choked, for behind me the wierd 

Lone hunter was chuckling merrily. 
My thoughts he had read, for ; " My young friend," he 
" I perceive is much moved by memories revered. 
And the fairy-tale atmosphere, verily ! " 

I was straightway restored — head cool, eye keen, 
Foot sure — from the whelming emotion 

By the winds of the heights and the starshine serene. 

My spirit ne'er again will be shaken, I ween. 
With a wistful Christmas devotion ! 

Then gradually grew my mother's light 

From twinkle to glow, till the gable 
Waxed ruddy, then strangely, horribly bright ; 
Lo, the smoke, and over the roof tree white 

Red flames. Is the earth yet stable ? 

" Fire, fire ! " I screamed, and when sparks flew higher 

Wrung hands in helpless terror. 
Quoth the hunter : " 'Tis scarce a calamity dire. 
Shack, Christmas cheer, and a tomcat on fire ? 

Your excitement implies a slight error." 

So sagely he spoke, with such awful sangfroid 

Cold shivers ran thro' me. Poetic 
Faint shadings of carmine and silver, — he saw 
The mingling of fireshine and moonshine by law 

Ascertainable — optic — aesthetic. 

He hollowed his hand, his sight to assist 

For noting the color perspective : 
Over fiord and mountain — what, music ? Hist ! 

«J25 ^ 

The angel choir with my mother, I wist — 
" Mere rapturous delusion — subjective ! 

" Much laden — thy meek heart no ill could entice 
In the world — 'twas thy valley of sorrow — 
So softly we bear thee o'er snowfield and ice 
That thou keep this Christmas in Paradise 
With the blessed saints tomorrow." 

The hunter had left me — the moon was o'ercast, 

My spirit in fierce agitation. 
My cabin I reached; yet methought aghast: 
"In fireshine and moonshine — lurks sights unsurpassed 

From such twofold illumination ! " 


St. John's day 'twas, and midsummertide, 

The heather with heat aquiver. 
A wedding peal. Folk walk, folk ride : 
On every road of the countryside 

Runs a gaily-colored river. 

At our neighbor's — what frequent and loud report 

Of the mortar ? Then lo, one and all did 
To his green-decked house and courtyard resort, 
While I leaned me over the crag edge in sport, 
Tho' the tears coursed fast and scalded. 

A song like boist'rous jeering, the young 

And the old folk shouted together, — 
A taunt at the truant whose heart it wrung. 
In despair at the brink I bit my tongue. 

And tore out the wild flowers and heather. 

4 26|» 

Now forth did they ride in a gorgeous train: 

Rode the bride upright and stately ; 
Her golden plaits of her feet were fain, 
Fresh, fair, as though never that night we had lain 

On the hillside together — but lately! 

When she rode by the bridegroom's side through the fiord 

Slow-pacing, a change came upon me, 
And somehow my spirit was freed and soared ; 
She who my heart captured, my heart had restored. 

The Victory — She it was won me ! 

Again I was Steel, by the quivering abyss 

Observant and coolly reflective, 
The procession — a polychrome ribbon (of this 
Hand shading my eyesight) I'm sure. Who would miss 

Such a perfect aesthetic perspective ? 

White linen, fluttering kerchiefs, and shawls. 

Men's scarlet doublets outspread there : 
Holy cup — sun-bathed church — filled full to the walls. 
Fair bride — (once mine, whatever befalls) 

And my bliss that I fling to the dead there ; — 

All which it was given me now to survey 
From the heights of my life at' due distance, 

So that over the whole a clear light lay, 

Denied unto them in the thronged highway 
Who cleave to the dust for existence. 

Behind me the sinister huntsman's guffaw, 

Estranging and mordant : " Good brother, 
.After all I have witnessed I'm free to withdraw. 

4 27 ^ 

Thou hast answered thy calling, and mastered its law 
And cans't need no stay from another." 

"Yea, verily, now to a man am I grown 
Of all charges I grant thine acquittal. 
For my woe-gotten virtue myself must atone. 
In my bosom already my heart to stone 
Is hardening by little and little. 

"Having drained to the dregs the strengthening 
I shall freeze on no wind-swept summit 
My life's tree felled ; sea-swallowed my craft ; 
Thro' white birch as her kirtle in a golden shaft — 
What play of light contrast consummate. 

Now they gallop and rapidly vanish from sight 
Thou art gone, O my day-dream Elysian — 

Let thy lot be sunshine — none do thee despite. 

I surrender thee here to scale the sheer height 
For the wider and deeper life-vision. 

Flint-hearted, I heed the mystic command 

I have set all faith and hope in : 
From the lowland, whose life I forego, I am banned : 
Alone here with God and Freedom I stand — 
O'er the depths men mope and grope in ! 


^.■*'^*-- v*-"^---' <rV'.>'^'' 

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